Baghdad (AP) — Pope Francis launches his first visit to Iraq on Friday, pleading for centuries-old diversity and accepting Muslims as a valuable resource for their Christian neighbors Prompted and asked the embarrassed Christian community — “It’s as small as mustard seeds”-I’ll do my best.
Francis dispelled the coronavirus pandemic and security concerns and resumed global papacy after a year of hiatus. Spent in Vatican City under the COVID-19 blockade.. His main purpose over the weekend is to rebuild Iraq’s declining Christian population, which has been severely persecuted by Islamic State groups and still facing discrimination by the majority of Muslims, and a country devastated by war and conflict. Is to help.
In a welcome remark, Francis said, “Only if we learn to transcend our differences and consider each other as members of the same human family, we will begin an effective process of reconstruction and the future. You can leave it to the generations. ” A better, fairer and more humane world. “
The 84-year-old Pope wore a face mask as well as his host during the flight from Rome and during all his protocol visits. However, social distance and other health measures were slow on the streets of airports and Baghdad, despite the mask coming off when leaders sat down to talk and the outbreak of COVID-19 in the country worsened. It looked like.
The government is keen to show off the relative stability achieved after the defeat of the IS “Caliph”. Nevertheless, security measures were strict.
Francis, who enjoys jumping into the crowd and likes to travel on the open-sided Popemobile, was carried around Baghdad in an armored black BMW i750 surrounded by rows of police motorcycles. Francis was thought to be the first to use a bulletproof vehicle to protect him and prevent the formation of crowds.
However, the Iraqis seemed keen to welcome the global attention brought by Francis and his visit. Some people lined up on the road to cheer on his convoy. Banners and posters in the center of Baghdad portray Francis with the slogan “We are all brothers.”
Some who wanted to get closer were terribly disappointed by the heavy security codeon.
“It was my big wish to meet the Pope, pray for my sick daughter, and pray for her to be healed, but this wish did not come true,” said the Cathedral of Our Lady of Salvation in the Body district. Lard William Georges, the father of three 52-year-olds, said he turned his back when he tried to meet Francis when he visited.
“This opportunity won’t be repeated. I’ll do it tomorrow. I know it won’t happen, but I’ll do it,” he said mercilessly.
Francis told reporters on the Pope’s plane that he was happy to resume his trip, the traditional birthplace of Abraham, where his first trip was worshiped by Muslims, Christians and Jews. He said that the trip to Iraq was particularly symbolic.
“This is an iconic journey,” he said. “It is also an obligation to the land that has been suffering for many years.”
Francis was visibly limping all afternoon with signs of burning sciatica and having to cancel the event recently. He almost stumbled when he climbed the stairs to the cathedral, and the aide had to stabilize him.
Francis said in a spectacular rally with President Barhamsari at a palace in the highly fortified Green Zone of Baghdad that Iraqi Christians and other minorities have the same rights and protections as the Shiite majority. Said it was worth it.
“Religious, cultural and ethnic diversity, which has been a hallmark of Iraqi society for thousands of years, is not an obstacle to exclusion, but a valuable resource for drawing,” he said. “Iraq today is called upon, especially for everyone in the Middle East, to show that diversity should lead to harmonious cooperation in social life, rather than causing conflict.”
Sally, a member of the Iraqi minority Kurds, repeated his call.
“The east cannot be imagined without Christians,” Sally said. “Continuous migration of Christians from eastern nations will have disastrous consequences for the ability of people in the same region to live together.”
Visits to Iraq are in line with Francis’ long-standing efforts to improve relations with the Islamic world and have been accelerated in recent years by friendships with the main Sunni priest, Sheikh Ahmet El Taib. ..It will reach a new height at his meeting on Saturday With Iraq’s leading Shiite priest, Grand Ayatollah Ali al Sistani A person who has been respected since Iraq.
In Iraq, the Pope brought his call for tolerance in a country rich in ethnic and religious diversity but deeply hurt by hatred. Violence between violent denominations between Shiites and Sunni Muslims, clashes and tensions between Arabs and Kurds, and extremes against minorities such as Christians and Yazidis since the US invasion of Saddam Hussein in 2003. Atrocities were seen.
The few remaining Christians have a prolonged distrust of their Islamic neighbors and face discrimination long before IS.
Its existence here dates back almost to the time of Christ. Christians in Iraq belong to many rituals and denominations, with the largest Chaldean ritual church, the Syrian Catholic Church, the Assyrians, and several Orthodox churches. They once made up a significant minority in Iraq, estimated at about 1.4 million. However, in the turmoil since 2003, when Sunni militants often targeted Christians, their numbers began to decline.
They were hit further when IS struck northern Iraq in 2014. This includes a traditional Christian town on the Nineveh Plains. Their radical Islam forced the inhabitants to flee the neighboring Kurdistan region or farther away.
Few have returned — it is estimated that there are still less than 300,000 Christians in Iraq, many of whom have been displaced. Those who returned found the houses and churches destroyed. Many feel threatened by Shiite militias who control some areas.
There is also a realistic struggle. Many Iraqi Christians cannot find a job in the public sector, Iraq’s largest employer, and cannot blame discriminatory practices. Public affairs have been primarily managed by the Shiite political elite.
For the Pope, who often traveled to places where Christians were a persecuted minority Iraqi puzzled Christians It is a microcosm of the “martyrdom church” that he has praised since the time of the young Jesuits aiming to become missionaries in Asia.
At the Cathedral of Our Lady of Salvation, Francis One of the worst Christian massacres, A 2010 Islamic extremist attack on the cathedral killed 58 people.
Talking to the congregation, he urged Christians to work hard in Iraq to ensure that their Catholic community “is as small as mustard seeds but continues to enrich the lives of society as a whole” — the Bible and the Quran. Use the image found in both.
On Sunday, Francis met a small Christian community who returned to the town of Karakosh in honor of the dead in the shelled Mosul Square of the destroyed church, where they were destroyed and used as a shooting range by the IS. Congratulate you.
In Iraq, there is a new surge in coronavirus infection, with most new cases dating back to the first highly contagious subspecies identified in the United Kingdom. Francis, the Vatican delegation and the travel media are vaccinated. Most Iraqis do not Possibility of travel to fuel infection.
Vatican and Iraqi authorities downplayed the threat and argued that social distance, crowd control and other medical measures would be implemented.
They did, to some extent, but it did not undermine the well-being of the ordinary Iraqis (Christians and Muslims alike) that Francis came to their homes.
“We can’t express joy because this is certainly a historic event that we keep remembering,” said Rafif Issa. “All Iraqis, not just Christians, are happy. I hope this day will be a blessed day for us and all Iraqi people.”
Contributed by AP journalist Qassim Abdul-Zahra.
Pope urges Iraq to accept its Christians on historic visits | News
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